My dad was against going to see any psychiatrist that had not been recommended by someone we knew. I agree, sadly, that you do have to be on your guard because, despite what some may claim, psychiatry is far from an exact science. My dad’s “recommended” psychiatrist turned out to be a homeopathic one, however, which strikes me as somewhat of an oxymoron. I am sceptical of the medical establishment but, to me, “homeopathic” is not a good place to start.
But I really needed and wanted someone to help me, so I went into his office with my preconceived ideas pushed back in my mind. It started well enough. He didn’t speak much English but I had my parental tranlsators with me so that was okay. He had a reassuring manner and put me at relative ease, despite my general psychological discomfort. I was momentarily hopeful that help was finally on the way.
It didn’t last long. There were some initial clues that his practice was questionable. He made blanket statements along the lines of “your fears are unfounded” which, true or not, seem like a bad idea. If a patient has OCD, even if this provides reassurance it will be temporary and will contribute to a reassurance-seeking pattern. If they have depression, this is a little like being told to snap out of it. He also talked much more than I did when I would have thought that, at least in an initial consultation, he should have been gathering information about me and my problem. I know that with experience psychiatrists can find clues without much patient input, but that doesn’t make them mind readers.
He then went on to leave no doubt in my mind that I was dealing with a quack, even if he was qualified. Without evidence (other than the fact that I was an only child and visiting his office with my parents) he proceeded to explain that my problems stemmed from the anxiety of being an only child and were significantly the fault of my parents. On the biological side, my pale colouring implied the likelihood of a lack of phosphorous. According to him, Sweden should be sprayed with phosphorous to lower their “12% suicide rate” (in fact, the rate is around 12 per 100,000…). He made disturbingly frequent use of a dream dictionary though I don’t believe I described any dreams to him. He also said that I didn’t spend enough time enjoying myself. In relation to this, he asked whether I had ever had sex in the sea. From my reaction (open-mouth, silence, physical preparation to exit his office) he must have realized that I wasn’t impressed. He finally declared, perhaps in a misguided attempt to reassure, that he had seen people in a much worse state than myself and sent me away with a prescription for a single phosphorous pill and something else homeopathic for panic attacks.
Funny though this all is now, at the time it was a huge setback. I couldn’t believe that I had been sent away without receiving a diagnosis (even an unofficial one like “the blues”), any suggestions for psychological intervention (maybe some kind of talking therapy, even for a short time) or some real medicine (seriously, one phosphorous pill??), though I would never have trusted these had he provided them. May I just reiterate, he was a real psychiatrist. I felt that I was desperately in need of help but now believed that it would not be forthcoming.